#Girlcrush - Liza of NYC Brunch Squad

As you may know, making new friends as an adult is not easy. Many women find themselves following their dreams to a brand new city where they don’t know anyone. Liza, the founder of NYC Brunch Squad, moved to NYC and quickly learned how challenging it can be to make new friends, especially in such a big city! This inspired her to create NYC Brunch Squad - a community for women to meet up in a casual environment and get to know each other over brunch! Here’s her story.

nyc brunch squad girlcrush

Tell us about yourself and your business!

I have always enjoyed bringing women together and fostering friendships. One of my most meaningful experiences in college was being a Resident Assistant. It was so magical watching a group of strangers bond over shared experiences and create lifelong friendships with one another. I considered it a privilege to be able to facilitate that.

When I moved to NYC I was very lucky and already had some friends from college living here. Despite having that support system in place, it was still an adjustment getting used to life here. I started thinking about how challenging it would be to go through that experience without having a support system in place. I also started meeting a lot of women that would tell me how challenging it was to make friends here. I think it can be hard to make friends at any age, but it does seem to get even harder as adults. People don’t know where to begin.

That’s how I came up with this idea - match a group of women (with the common goal of making new friends) in a room together and create a laid back and fun atmosphere so that everyone feels welcome and comfortable. I wasn’t sure if anyone would sign up for this, but in just one year we have grown to over 1,000 members. The interest is there! People want to connect - they just need the right environment to allow for it.

I really do believe in the quote “empowered women empower other women”. It is a joy to see what can happen when a group of women come together to support one another and connect. There are a lot of competitive industries in NYC that pit women against one another - I love doing my part to combat that.

What inspired you to start your own business?

nyc brunch squad girlcrush

I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Even as a child I loved having lemonade stands and even started selling greeting cards once I figured out how to design them on my computer. Honestly, I like to be in charge of my projects. When something is yours, you get to call all of the shots. There are definitely days when I feel like it could be helpful to have someone else to bounce ideas off of, but overall I really thrive in having full control and discretion over the operations of the group.

Also - I really love brunch! It is so fun getting to explore a bunch of incredible restaurants! I also used to want to become an event planner. This allows me to live out that dream a little!

Is this your full time job?

Nope! I also work full time in the field of juvenile justice and am finishing a Masters degree in Forensic Psychology (which is the intersection between Psychology and Law).

How do you structure your days?

During the week, I’m working in the Courthouse all day. It can be 8:30 AM-6:30 PM some days, depending on what’s going on with my cases. When I get home in the evenings I have to divide my time between relaxing (self care is super important to me!), doing homework and studying for graduate school, and working on NYC Brunch Squad tasks. It can be challenging balancing everything, but to-do lists keeps me organized and on task!

Where and how do you work best?

It depends on what I’m working on! For the brunch group, I find that I am most productive when I’m working in a comfortable position in my apartment. I do best when it is quiet and I can concentrate.

Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?

We’re bringing back the tees soon! They are not just for members of our Squad - anyone can have one. They say “you had me at brunch” on the front! You can pre-order one here: http:// bit.ly/SnagYourTee

nyc brunch squad

Where is your business based?

We are based in NYC but I’m so happy to announce that we have 15 pop up brunches in the works for the following cities: Philadelphia, Miami, DC, LA, Las Vegas, Chicago, Austin, Atlanta, Denver, Nashville, Boston, New Orleans, Phoenix, Portland and Seattle! If you’re in those cities and interested in getting the invitations, definitely reach out so I can add you to the list!

I am so excited to watch our community expand!

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

Planning, planning, planning. It is not enough to just have an idea. You have to really think it through and break down your goals into small, realistic steps. It is also really important to do a lot of research and make sure that you’re knowledgable and skilled at what you’re looking to do. We all have certain talents and it’s important to make sure you can utilize your talents in whatever your endeavor is.

nyc brunch squad girlcrush

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and attracting new customers?

Word of mouth! When the attendees have a positive experience, they are quick to share the word with others. There are also a lot of amazing opportunities to network online now! Of course, making the effort to attend networking events is helpful too.

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

I’m constantly frustrated by not having more hours to dedicate to NYC Brunch Squad. There may be a point after I graduate where I decide to put that career on hold to really commit to this for a few months and just see where it goes. I really do find a lot of joy in both of my careers, but this one unfortunately always has to take a back seat to my “9-5er”.

How did you overcome these challenges?

I really had to spruce up my time management skills. As I said, prioritizing and mapping out tasks is what helps me stay organized and on top of everything. Maintaining a balanced life is crucial. If I need to lay in bed until 11 AM on a Saturday to recharge, then I will let myself do that. You can’t always be “go, go, go” or you’ll burn out.

How do you keep motivated through tough times?

The women in my group keep me motivated. I absolutely love fostering friendships and it is truly what pushes me to keep doing this. I get 'thank you’ messages every month from women telling me how much the group has changed their lives, and that is so powerful.

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

I actually don’t think there can be competitors in this space, because at the end of the day, if someone is trying to mimic what I am doing then that means they are trying to bring women together in a positive space and that makes me happy. And, I certainly am not the first person to create a group like this. I do think there are a lot of things that make this group unique and special, but those things are happening naturally and I actually don’t have to work too hard to distinguish us from anyone else. It’s pretty obvious to our attendees when they show up at our events what sets us apart from other groups.

nyc brunch squad girlcrush

What is the best advice you have received recently?

It is really important to always recognize and value your worth. It is something I preach but don’t always practice. Someone was talking about it with me recently and I have been trying to be more mindful of it. It’s very important advice.

What do you wish you had known when you started your business?

I remember easing tentatively into this work because I really wasn’t sure if it would interest anyone or not. I wish I had known there would be so much interest because I could have been more bold from the very first day!

Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire most? Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?

My parents! They have instilled the most important values in me - specifically, kindness. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them and I’m so thankful that they taught me how important it is to spread kindness throughout the world.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Dream big! It is so cliche, but I honestly do believe that where there is a will there is a way. You just have to be diligent and never give up.

What business tools/resources could you not work without?

GOOGLE DOCS. They keep me so organized! (I just have to pray that they never crash or else I’ll be in big trouble and missing a lot of important documents haha)

What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?

A little bit of confidence can go a very long way.

Where would you like your business to be a year from now?

I would love for our pop up brunches in other cities to be successful so that every month there could be women coming together for the brunches in cities all across the country - making new friends and supporting each other.

Where can we go to connect with the NYC Brunch Squad?

Instagram: @NYCBrunchSquad
New Facebook page: www.facebook.com/NYCBrunchSquadXO/
We have a private, members-only Facebook group as well!
Email: info@NYCBrunchSquad.com
My email: liza@NYCBrunchSquad.com

#Brandcrush - WomenWhoLoveWine

We’ve been in love with a fun, relatable Instagram account, @womenwholovewine - a collection of memes and funny quotes about, you guessed it, wine! Their Instagram is massively successful with over 330k followers, making them the largest wine-related meme account on the ‘gram. They took their success and created a store full of Women Who Love Wine merch. We had the honor of interviewing them, here’s their story!

Tell us about yourself and your business!

Shop WomenWhoLoveWine is a witty AF apparel and home goods line meant for wine-lovin’ women. Founded in 2016, ShopWWLW is all about day drinking and women empowerment! 

What inspired you to start your own business?

Honestly, we truly wanted to share our love for wine with other babes in the form of affordable, unique merch.   

Is this your full time job?

Shop WomenWhoLoveWine is definitely a full time gig. A huge thank you to our customers for keeping us busy! With that said, we both also work in social media marketing, and are moms to little girls. 

How do you structure your days?

We don’t. Totally raw, unstructured, and full of chaos.  

Where and how do you work best?

We definitely work best when we are slightly tipsy. Jk…. But really. We are a duo of boss babes, and we each bring our own unique attributes to the company. Shop WomenWhoLoveWine is a great blend of creativity, girl power, and sheer love for each other (and wine). 

Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?

We do not have any current contests going on, but we would love to offer anyone reading this the opportunity to score 15% off when you subscribe to our blog at https://www.wwlwblog.com/subscribe.   

Where is your business based?

We create and ship all our merchandise out of St. Louis, MO. 

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

We truly wanted to bring something new to the market. We didn’t just want to be “another graphic tee shop”. So when we ask a poll on Instagram, or send an email out looking for feedback, we actually take your advice!   

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and attracting new customers?

The most effective way to raise brand awareness is to be organically yourself. Do not try to mimic another company’s branding. Don’t try to do what anyone else is doing. Just be your own brand, and trust us, you will find a tribe that will love you!  

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

The biggest challenge we face as a small business with a large social media following is the false impression that we function like a large business, because we don’t. This isn’t Amazon Prime. Our apparel doesn’t ship next day. We hand-make, hand-print, and hand-package every item in our shop. Our pillows are even hand-sewn on one of our grandmother’s old sewing machine. And although it may take us a few extra days to get your merch to you, we promise it’s made with love! 

How did you overcome these challenges?

WINE (isn’t that the answer to everything?) Ok, but really… transparency. We try to show our small biz side through our Instagram stories, and we truly value every message, comment, email, and shout out we receive! 

How do you keep motivated through tough times?

Would you shoot us if we said wine again? 

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

Be unique. Owning a small business is kind of like dating. You don’t want to pretend to be someone you’re not, because then the person you are dating will end up falling in love with the false version of you. Same thing with owning a small business. Stick to your own branding. Have your own voice. Create your own content. The sales will follow. 

What is the best advice you have received recently?

Marry someone who owns a vineyard. 

What do you wish you had known when you started your business?

Not every item will be a best seller, and its okay. Just because you LOVE someone, doesn’t mean everyone else will.

Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire most? Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?

This is a tough question! We are truly inspired by every female-owned small business. It sounds cliché, but it is so amazing and inspiring to see people (especially mamas – we are bias!) put their dreams into action, and create products that people love.

There is NO greater feeling than seeing a follower show off an item from our collection on their social media. I recently ran into someone at my local Target WEARING ONE OF OUR SHIRTS, and without knowing who I was, I asked her where she got it and she went on and on about how amazing the company was. That in itself is empowering.  

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Just do it ! Recognize you will make mistakes, and learn from each and every encounter. BE UNIQUE ! 

What business tools/resources could you not work without?

Obviously social media. And wine. 

What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?

Some people are just down right rude. Don’t take peoples’ criticism to heart.


Where can we find you?

Instagram: @shopwwlw, @womenwholovewine

Twitter: @wwlwine

Facebook: @womenwholovewine

Pinterest: @womenwholovewine

Website: www.shopwwlw.com

Email: womenwholovewine@gmail.com

#Girlcrush - Maria Halasz

Maria Halasz Girlcrush

Tell us about yourself and your business!  

I have a background in medicine and biotechnology and spent 25 years supporting the development of medicines for cancer and inflammatory diseases. Although my role has been corporate, I have always been intimately involved with the work of our researchers, and have developed an eye for good science.

While traveling through Japan in 2012 I found an amazing technology that regulated the human hair cycle using natural botanicals. Essentially, the Japanese scientists figured out how to slow down hair aging by blocking a protein called FGF5. To me this was an absolute breakthrough. Not only the key to hair thinning and hair loss, but also natural working actives. I was convinced and we bought the technology the following year. After two years of further research, formulation and clinical trials, in 2015 we launched the first FGF5 inhibitor hair care products that prevent hair aging; thinning and hair loss. Evolis was borne!

We focus on effective, clinically evident results, but they also have to be best in class when it comes to looking after the hair from root to tip. Most recently, we have developed the technology to address other hair growth regulators and will be launching our new eye brow and eye lash growth products next year.

What inspired you to start your own business?

I have always loved science and have a strange humanitarian streak. When I see exciting science I always wonder how it could be made useful for the benefit of people. So, when I saw the FGF5 inhibitor technology in Japan my brain went into overdrive. It also helped that I suffered from quite severe hair thinning at the time and, irrespective of trying pretty much everything, nothing seemed to work for me. Around 80% of all northern European women have fine hair, and when it starts to thin out, it is really noticeable. I was one of these women and, frankly, I have given up hope. So when evolis started to transform my hair after a couple of months, I was inspired. Then my hairdresser wanted the product for all his other customers so the idea of the business was formed.

Is this your full time job?

Yes, it is. Probably more than full time. When you are building a business it can be all consuming, depending on your goal. We want to make our products available globally, and have offices in Dallas, Sydney and Tokyo. But even when I’m not “working” my mind is still on how we could do more for our customers, how to communicate our products better and how could we make it available to the widest audience.

How do you structure your days?

I’m an early riser, so by 7:00am I would have finished my daily run, get organized and arrived at my office. I like to think through my priorities before others arrive at the office. I find these alone times are my most creative when it comes to strategic thinking. Then I spend time with my team individually, making sure we have a good flow and achieve 2-3 key outcomes during the day. I prefer to take outside meetings from lunchtime onwards, but this doesn’t always work and I often spend my entire day in back to back meetings. Plus, I travel a lot between Sydney in Australia, where our head office is, and Dallas. I try to keep my routine of getting up early, exercise than straight to work, which sets me up well for my days. I am a creature of habit, no matter where I am and love my routine.

Where and how do you work best?

I don’t have one specific way/place of working, and can get things done where I am at the time. Over the years I became accustomed to working through jetlag, although it is my preference these days to have at least half a day between arriving in a new location and meetings. The truth is, the business is my passion and my thoughts are never far away from it. Even so, my best achievements have almost always come from team work. I love bouncing ideas around, getting feedback and improving as a result. 

Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?

Maria Halasz Girlcrush

Yes, right now we have a fantastic promotion on our Reverse Collection, which includes our Activator, shampoo and conditioner. The most important product is our hair hero, the Activator, but using collection will give fuller thicker hair in just four months. Normally $121, it is now available for $99, and we’ll also give you a fabulous comb to use with the conditioner or hair masks. Just visit the evolisproducts.com website before 30 June. Outside of this, we always have great opportunities to test our products so it is really worthwhile signing up to our newsletter on www.evolisproducts.com

Where is your business based?

Our head office is in Sydney, but we also have offices in Dallas and Tokyo. We have been very fortunate to establish a great partnership early on with Neiman Marcus, then more recently  with Bloomingdales. They have been very supportive and understood our philosophy of effective and clean hair products, that can easily become part of people’s daily routine. 

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

You have to be 100% committed and believe in what you do; in our case, we wanted to bring effective, clean hair care products to everyone so hair aging and thinning is banished. Although we use products to keep our youthful skin, teeth and body, we are not used to doing the same for our hair. We tease it, bleach it, straighten it and torture it in any way possible, so developing a communication strategy to allow people to learn about and experience our products has been very important from the beginning. On the practical level, I was already running a public company so we have acquired the technology from Japan, which took us a couple of years to complete and have global ownership. The good thing was, that by the time we finished the deal I was totally convinced  that the product works, as it has transformed my hair from thin and brittle to shiny and bouncy. Just in time to take our first product range to a wider audience.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and attracting new customers?

Like many new brands, we communicate through social media, and build the number of listeners through digital marketing. Our partnership with Neiman Marcus in the US has also been great and we interact with our customers in the stores, providing a service called evoliscope. It is essentially a microscope to assess the quality of the hair.  Many of the associates at Nieman Marcus, after seeing their hair with the evoliscope, became our greatest advocates. In Japan, our best tool to communicate the benefits of our technology has been QVC, where we have become the best selling hair product in three years.

Maria Halasz Girlcrush

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

All the false claims by products that don’t work. Thinning hair is a very big issue. With a great market comes lots of competition, mostly from brands that make big claims and don’t deliver. People stop trusting, because products just don’t do what they claim. We constantly face this, so we try to make sure that we are fully transparent about the way our product works, our ingredients, the science and the clinical study results.  Hair biology is complex and there are very few new innovations out there that have any scientific basis. Even with the big brands, when you read the fine print you will see that they are just a variation on the claims that make no biological sense. The other big challenge is funding. Your ability to communicate will depend on your ability to spend money to access your audience through digital marketing and social media. You have to have deep pockets if you want to make a big impact.

How did you overcome these challenges?

We have been very honest about what our product does, how it works and what results people can expect. Hair grows slowly, so if anyone tells you that they will grow 6 inches of hair for you in three weeks, they are lying. We try to have real conversations with our customers; what is going on with their hair, what are their concerns, how can we assist. We also tell you upfront if we can’t.  In terms of funding, we are getting close to profitability. Going for profitability often comes at the expense of growth, but we have been able to grow at around 50% annually. 

How do you keep motivated through tough times?

It really helps to think of some of the women and men whose life has changed by using evolis. One of our customers suffered from cancer and had difficulty re-growing her hair. After four months she started to have new growth, which was amazing. Or a pharmacists who was so skeptical of evolis that he started using the products on himself as a joke. He is now one of our most enthusiastic advocates. Focusing on the people keeps my passion through the not infrequent challenges. 

I also had a couple of great mentors and they have taught me some important lessons. One of them is that you don’t’ really fail until you give up. My dad had always said to me that there is no such thing in life as “normal” pace, only your pace at doing things. So if I ever feel that I should be doing better, I remember that I can only go at my pace. Starting a business is tough and sometimes it can feel that the whole world is out to get you. But most people don’t care about you, they care about themselves. People are not for or against you, there are for themselves. This can be quite scary at first but liberating when you truly get it.

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

Evolis is the only topical, natural product for thinning hair that has clinical studies published scientific, peer reviewed papers. We know how our product works and don’t have to hide behind generic statements; we have the only FGF5 inhibitor product on the market. In addition, our active ingredients are plant based and we focus on maintaining our clean philosophy. We don’t put phosphates, silicones, phthalates, sulphates an parabens into our shampoos and conditioners. We also use very effective anti-oxidants and moisture holding ingredients such a baobab and mangosteen you can only find in skin care products, as they are very expensive.

What is the best advice you have received recently?

Delegate, and delegate more. As the business grows I will have to increasingly let go of aspects of it, which I find difficult. Recently one of my mentors reminded me of the importance of letting go certain aspects and allow others to take over, even if they make mistakes.

What do you wish you had known when you started your business?

This is a cliché but very true; building a business takes longer and cost more than you expect. The other important thing, which I didn’t quite realize at the beginning, is that things change along the way so we need to change with them. The market changes, customers’ expectations change and you often have to manage shifting dynamics.  This has never been more true that today in the beauty industry.

Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire most? Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?

So many great business people to choose from, so I mention Jack Ma. I am a great admirer of the Alibaba founder. He says  many sensible things about how to build a business and is a great advocate of persistence. But I get my daily inspiration closer to home; my team, friends and family. They inspire me to overcome the inevitable daily challenges and celebrate the wins with me. 

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Take a break. You are so much more useful to yourself, your family and the business if you take a break, reflect and find time to relax. Entrepreneurs are wired to be on 24/7, so it is more challenging to chill than anything else.

What business tools/resources could you not work without?

My iphone of course! I conduct a lot of my business on my iphone, and I’d much rather lose my wallet than my phone these days. The second most important tool is my Microsoft tablet. As great as the iphone is it really isn’t suitable for writing loner text and some of the apps I use a lot, like one note, doesn’t work well on the iphone.

What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?

It has been a pleasant surprise that the beauty industry is full of motived people who are also great innovators. Coming from the science background I was always interested in how clinical research is done for beauty products. Whilst the majority of the brands still rely on nebulous claims, there is a strong trend to get functional ingredients that do actually deliver results.

But the most important lesson I’ve learnt is that you have to remain true to your core values. When things get difficult it is easy to cave in and go on the path of least resistance. At the end, authenticity will pay off.

Where would you like your business to be 5 years from now?

In five years I envisage evolis to be the trusted brand for people when they think of effective personal care; whether it is to keep their hair in top condition or have the best quality skin care. We have our hair care line already on the market and planning to follow with scientifically validated, clinically tested skin care in 2020. I would like to continue to grow exponentially and build a large, loyal customer base around the world. 

The market is changing so fast in beauty, trends come and go. But I believe that brands that deliver true value in people’s lives will remain. I would like evolis to be known globally as such brand in five year’s time.

where can we find you?

Instagram@mariajhalasz @evolisprofessional @evolisaustralia @evolisjapan

          Twitter: @CellmidLimited @mariahalasz

Facebook: @evolis @mariahalasz

         Websitewww.evolisproducts.com

          Emailhalasz@cellmid.com.au





#Girlcrush - Gina Rivera

gina rivera

My family has been in the industry for 90 years, dating back to 1929. As a child, I swept hair off of the floor at my parent’s hair salon. Both my mother and father were hairstylists. From my experience of watching my parents, I developed a deep passion for the industry. I loved the artistry of the craft and witnessing how people felt after receiving treatment. I went to beauty school and was formally educated at the age of 17. Next, I started my own salon which later lead me to open my first Phenix Salon Suites.

Phenix Salon Suites is a leading company in the beauty industry that is providing salon suites for Salon Professionals throughout the United States. The company’s approach to operating with the Salon Professional in mind has proven to be key to its growth and success. This is attributed to the fact that I’ve grown up with a nine-decade history of family involvement in the beauty industry. I currently have 25 Salon Professionals in my immediate family which has allowed for an in-depth perspective of the requirements for success.

Phenix Salon Suites has over 250 location nationwide and is rapidly expanding throughout the United States as well as, internationally. The company has been named five times to the Entrepreneur’s Top 500 franchise list and has been the recipient of multiple industry awards. The Phenix Salon Suites difference is in truly understanding the Salon Professional and what they go through on a daily basis. The company is also widely recognized for the family culture they have created within their locations and throughout their organization.

What inspired you to start your own business?

gina rivera

During my 20’s, I met my husband and we were preparing to have our first child. At that time, I was renting a booth in a salon. I went into labor early and while I was at the hospital giving birth to our son, the salon owner called my husband and requested that he bring down the booth rent right away even though she knew that I was in labor. At that point, I was certain that I wanted to go out on my own. I also knew that I wanted to create an affordable solution for other Salon Professionals who wanted to become their own boss.

Shortly after this experience, I opened the first salon that I named after our son Phenix. He is the namesake of our company. A few years later, I expanded and rather than offering booth space, I built a salon with individual suites that could be rented and completely customized. This was the start of Phenix Salon Suites.

Is this your full-time job?

Professionally, I own Phenix Salon Suites, the By Gina Product line and my color line that is about to launch, COLOURS by Gina. I also write many articles for publication and do speaking engagements and public appearances. However, first and foremost, I am a mother and a wife. My family is very important to me. I strive to keep God and family first in my life.

How do you structure your days?

The first thing I do is spend time with the lord and read my daily devotional. I then have my coffee while reading my bible. After that, I take care of my family. I prepare lunches for my kids, take them to school, and attend to other miscellaneous duties.   Next, I move on to my workday which includes working with my staff on corporate initiatives, writing articles, preparing for appearances, and doing hair for a select-clients.

Where is your business based?

We have over 250 stores nationwide and should surpass 300 stores during 2019. Our locations span coast to coast from Florida to Seattle.  Our corporate headquarters are in Encinitas, California, with an additional executive office in Colorado Springs, Colorado where we began.

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

I had a vision and a mission to bring culture back to the industry.  I believed in it so much that I acted upon it by opening my first Phenix Salon Suites in Colorado Springs, CO.

gina rivera
gina rivera

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and attracting new customers?

Developing a good culture and operating my business with integrity has been the cornerstone of off what we do. We always strive to keep the Salon Professionals first which has contributed to developing a good reputation. For us, a good reputation in this business means everything. 

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

In 2012, when the economy took a hit, we had just started to expand our business. It was a time that I really had to challenge myself to face my fears and continue to move forward with the faith that I was making good business decisions. 

How did you overcome these challenges?

I had to remain focused on my goals and work through my fears. I became more determined than ever that I could push myself through adversity. Eventually, the economy bounced back and all of the focus paid off.

How do you keep motivated through tough times?

I read my daily bible devotional. I spend time with the Lord and get my spiritual food every morning. This carries me through both good and bad times as well as my work day. I continually focus on the things that I can accomplish rather than thoughts that are self-defeating.

gina rivera

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

We don’t focus on the competitors, instead, we focus on providing great service to Salon Professionals by ensuring they have the opportunity to own their own business at the fraction of the cost of owning a full-scale salon.  Our goal is to provide the optimal environment to support them. However, I strongly believe that the fact that my family has been in the industry since 1929 has contributed to our success. Being a stylist myself for over 30 years, I have a very good understanding of the demands as well as the requirements to be successful in the industry.

What is the best advice you have received recently?

The best advice comes from my husband and co-founder, Jason Rivera, “Make God your business and not business your God.”  Another favorite that was said to me recently is “Run your own race.” To me this means that I focus on being my best self in all that I do.

What do you wish you had known when you started your business?

Make sure to surround yourself with good people who you can learn from and trust. For me there is still a lot to know. I am learning more now than when I started out. And, I continue to surround myself with people who help me to grow personally and professionally.

gina rivera girlcrush
gina rivera

Where can we find you?

Instagram: @beautyexpertgina

Facebook: @phenixsalonsuites1929

Website: https://phenixsalonsuites.com/

#Girlcrush - Alexis Toren

alexis toren the babe abroad

Tell us about yourself and your business!

My name is Alexis Toren and I’m 20 years old and I live in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada! I was born and raised in a town just outside of Vancouver called Maple Ridge. I started my first blog in high school and then rebranded and started The Babe Abroad travel blog in my grade twelve year and have been doing it for 3 years now! My business The Babe Abroad is a community of fellow travelers and others who share the interest of travel. I also recently started my own clothing label called Infatuation the Label which surrounds women empowerment and self-love.

What inspired you to start your own business?

My mom started her own blog 2 years before she inspired me to start my mine. I started writing about my passions of travel and fashion and it became my favourite thing to do in my free time. I loved meeting new people and aspiring travelers and sharing stories and helpful tips and tricks around traveling and fashion. I started my clothing label to empower women to be infatuated with themselves especially in today’s day and age with social media and low self-esteem.

Is this your full time job?

No, it’s not my full time job. I’m a full time university student majoring in psychology and I have a part time job at a restaurant as well! I have an extremely busy schedule, but I love what I do and I’m always keeping myself super busy!

alexis toren the babe abroad

How do you structure your days?

I do a lot of planning and organizing my day to ensure I get the most work done possible. It can be extremely difficult getting everything done on time for school and balance it with my businesses, but I make sure I plan my days, weeks and months in advance so I never feel too overwhelmed. 

Where and how do you work best?

I work best in local coffee shops, patios, or in my bed in my pajamas; I just love having my own space, wherever it is, to get some work done! 

Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?

I host giveaways all the time for the people who subscribe to my website! If you hit the link below and put your name and email in, you will be automatically put into multiple giveaways for Starbucks giftcards, makeup, trips, and much more!

Where is your business based?

My business is based wherever I’m based! Right now, The Babe Abroad is based out of Kelowna, BC and for the summer it will be based out of Calgary, Alberta and from February to June, it will be based out of Australia! I love living the laptop lifestyle! My clothing label is based online, so you can purchase from anywhere in the world!

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

The first steps were figuring out a niche I was passionate about and wanted to write about, which was travel and fashion. Then, it was all about putting out authentic content and engaging with people online consistently. 

alexis toren the babe abroad

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and attracting an audience?

Interacting with others! It is so important to engage with the people who have the same interests as you. Also, hashtags have been a huge way to get my content seen by people who have the same interests and don’t follow me yet; it’s a great way to grow your audience and raise awareness for the type of content you create.

What has been your biggest challenges so far?

My biggest challenge has been BALANCE. Balance has always been a difficult thing in my life since there has always been so much to balance. Being a full time university student and owning my own businesses, plus being in a long distance relationship, and maintaining my friendships at school and my relationships with my family, it can be extremely difficult to give everything and everyone the attention it deserves. I’m always learning new ways to balance the priorities in my life and it’s been my biggest challenge thus far. Another huge challenge for me has been maintaining consistency. It is so important to be putting in consistent work into your business, especially when you’re first starting. So, balancing everything in my life while trying to maintain consistency was extremely difficult to overcome.

How did you overcome these challenges?

I overcame the challenges of balance and consistency by being super productive with the time that I did have and to put extra time into planning my weeks ahead of time. It is also super important to prioritize the things that I did need to get done. I’m still not perfect at this, but I keep getting better and better and getting the most work done in the time I do have.

How do you keep motivated through tough times?

This is so important because it is so easy to just give up when things get tough, but you have to remember: if having a successful business was easy, everybody would be doing it! It is extremely difficult to keep consistent but I always remember why I started in the first place and goals I want to accomplish. Sometimes if I’m really stuck in a rut, I will write down my goals and do some planning to get myself excited and creative again so I can keep moving forward. 

alexis toren the babe abroad infatuation the label

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

One thing that makes me different from the rest of the many social media personalities is that I encourage the natural look and feeling. I barely wear any makeup (mostly because I don’t even know how to put it on properly lol), I’ve never died my hair and I don’t mind wearing sweatpants and a hoodie out in public. I encourage comfort and being the natural you! I’m a huge advocate of natural beauty because I think most young girls start using makeup early and it makes them feel they can’t leave the house without it, I want to change that mindset and encourage being natural.

What is the best advice you have received recently?

The best advice I’ve received recently was from my dad. Sometimes it can be extremely hard not to compare myself to others. Whenever I get into that toxic mindset, my dad always reminds me that every single person is different and is on a different path, so you just have to focus on your path and be the best you can be and never look back. I think that’s changed my life.

What do you wish you had known when you started your blog?

I wish I was more prepared for how many haters came along with putting myself out there online. When I first started posting on Instagram regularly and launched my blog, I was in high school, and people were extremely mean and cruel to me about it. It wasn’t until I was a bit older until I realized that those people were just jealous, but I wasn’t prepared to get that type of response from the people around me, especially because blogging wasn’t as “mainstream” and common as it is today.

Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire most? Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?

My biggest influences are definitely my mom and dad since they are both entrepreneurs and my biggest supporters. My mom actually inspired me to start my blog since she had started her own blog about two years before she convinced me to try it out. I admire so many amazing bloggers and social media personalities online that have inspired me to do what I do and just the huge amounts of support I get daily from my community of people on Instagram inspires me to keep going.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

My biggest piece of advice to other entrepreneurs would be to be patient! Things take time, and sometimes quite a long time to get popular, if it all. Success will not happen overnight, like Justin Bieber’s career. It’s taken me over 3 years to hit 27k followers on Instagram by posting and engaging constantly! If you’re patient, consistent, and have a good business idea, you will start to see results and gain traction.

alexis toren the babe abroad

What tools/resources could you not work without?

I could not work without my Canon EOS M50 camera and my mom (who is also a blogger) to take pictures for me! Obviously, I rely on technology like my laptop and cell phone as well as social media networks for my businesses. Also, it’s amazing to have other young entrepreneurs to talk to and collaborate with as a resource for learning new ideas and strategies! I would not be where I am today with my business without all of the support I get through social media and my blog, it’s been amazing!

What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?

I’ve learned to not take everything so personally. A lot of people may not like me, but I’ve learned that actually has nothing to do with me, it has to do with them. It was a hard pill to swallow for me if somebody didn’t like me for absolutely no reason at all. Everybody is going through something different and I’ve learned if somebody doesn’t like me or what I’m doing, that’s their own problem which usually stems from jealously and I’ve learned to accept that there are going to be a lot of those people, especially with what I do.

Where would you like your business to be 5 years from now?

I would love to see my blog and Instagram grow even bigger and see it get to a community of 100k people. I would also love to start and grow my own creative agency that specializes in creating content for businesses that catches the eye of our generation (Gen Z). Creating content is my passion and I hope to grow that passion into a business within the next 5 years. I also would like to see my clothing label gain more traction and be able to put even more money towards non-profit organizations to give back to the community. 

Where can we find you?

Instagram: @TheBabeAbroad  / @InfatuationTheLabel

Twitter: @TheBabeAbroad

Facebook: @TheBabeAbroad

Pinterest: @TheBabeAbroad

Website: www.thebabeabroad.com

Email: thebabeabroad@gmail.com

#Girlcrush - Mary Irwin

Having entrepreneurial parents who carved their own careers paths, it’s no surprise that Mary Irwin did the same for herself. Growing up in a rural town in Montana, she always aspired to be part of the rush and excitement that magazines like Vogue would showcase. Today she is a successful makeup artist with clients such as Tory Burch. Neiman Marcus. Ford, Hennessy, Amazon, Saks, NBC, and more!


Tell us about yourself and your business!

mary irwin makeup artist

I’m a makeup artist! I work on the fashion and commercial side of things, so everything from runway to advertising. 

My parents were hippies who met in a cult in San Francisco, and moved to Montana when I was young, but they were also huge on the arts - we all painted, sewed, danced and sculpted and found inspiration in nature. I picked up my first camera when I was 9, and took pictures of everything around me. I would go to the general store (that was so rural, they had a hitching post to tie your horse to!) and look at the one copy of Vogue that they would get and think “someday I’m going to be in that world.” When the Kevyn Auction books were released in the 90s, I was immediately obsessed. Fast forward a few decades, here I am.

What inspired you to start your own business?

My father has run his own business for over 50 years, and my mom has always freelanced, so I grew up watching entrepreneurs and it was just a logical step for me. I’ve had “regular” jobs before but nothing has inspired me like this industry.

Is this your full time job?

It is! I’ve been a makeup artist for 15 years and every day I’m amazed that I get to do this. I absolutely love what I do.

How do you structure your days?

My schedule is incredibly different from day to day. Some days are 14 hour days on set, and some days are purely office work. A typical day for me working on set in studio is to wake up about 90 minutes before I need to leave, make coffee and have breakfast, do some yoga or stretching at the minimum, and give myself plenty of time to get to set. Once I’m there my days can be ridiculously varied from easy and wrapping at 2 pm to getting home at 2 am. If I’m working I rarely plan anything else on those days other than maybe a dinner. 

If it’s an office day, I make sure I’ve had 8 hours of sleep, and I enjoy my morning ritual of coffee and silence before sitting down at my desk and planning the day. From follow up emails to clients and reaching out to my agency, to planning social media and updating my website, to working on my side design projects and catching up with friends there’s never enough time in the day. 

Self-care is also incredibly important! from taking care of your body with long days on set to taking care of your mind since this is also a surprisingly psychologically taxing industry.

mary irwin girlcrush

Where and how do you work best?

I love working with crews who understand what my job is and how we all fit together. I can (and have!) worked in crazy situations - from the bottoms of boats to the back of a truck, but when the crew is respectful and we’re all happy to be there and have the same goals then I’m working at my best. 

I’m also at 100% when the producer thinks about the things I need to do my job, like a table and chair that are at a good height to work, good natural light or good lighting for the makeup area, and enough time to do what the job requires all also take a day from good to great.  Sometimes the people you meet make your year just by being themselves.

Where is your business based?

I’m NYC based but work all over the world. My absolute favorite is Paris.

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

Makeup artistry has so many facets to it - there’s the skill level and artistic ability part, and then the business part. You’ll spend your entire career working to improve both, though you’ll discover that only about 20% of your time is actually spent painting faces. 

On the artistic side, I painted and took photographs my entire life so I already had a good understanding of color theory and balance but needed to have practical, on set experience and time touching faces. I got a makeup counter job so that I could learn while getting paid, and that was 17 years ago. I also assisted as many artists as I could find for the first 6 years. 

Oh the business side, taking some classes in how to run a business and reading about attracting and maintaining clients was a big help, along with contacting artist agencies to assist their artists which is 100% a MUST for any makeup artist.

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and attracting new customers?

Pre social media it was through editorial and word of mouth referrals. Now, I’d say editorial, referrals, AND social media which is both a blessing and a curse. It’s pretty amazing that you can have someone from the other side of the world know all about you based on a device you hold in your hand. Also, the teams I work with tend to refer each other a lot, since we all know each others strengths and work ethics.

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

mary irwin girlcrush

There’s a lot of over saturation in the industry with tons of artists all going for the same jobs, rates getting lowered, and many clients not understanding the value that a great makeup artist brings to set, so working with all of those factors can be a challenge. 

Every day is a new adventure! A few years ago my Mom got incredibly sick and almost died and I took a lot of time off to go be with her, which was difficult both emotionally and financially. It also made me think differently about the kinds of jobs I was doing, and the kind of artist I was versus what I wanted to be. I actually got married AND left my agency of 9 years because of the realizations I had.

Also, a few years ago my husband was offered a great job, but in another state. It was too good an opportunity to turn down, so we commute to see each other and we have households in two states, which can be complicated.

How did you overcome these challenges?

For me, I find that I break adversity down into manageable pieces. If you look at the whole thing as a mountain you’ll never get across it, so it’s truly step by step. I think about the desired end result, and what kinds of things need to happen to get there and work on them one at a time. 

I looked at my goals and what might have to happen to achieve them and essentially changed my entire life, from representation to housing to mental health, since this can be a tough industry. There’s a LOT of rejection which can wear on you and you have to learn that it is very rarely personal. 

Another thing that was hard for me, and I think hard for a lot of women was realizing that a situation doesn’t have to be abusive for it to be bad. I feel that life should be a constant search for greatness, or at least to be better than you were yesterday.

How do you keep motivated through tough times?

I think about how incredibly grateful I am to have a job I love, that I’m good at, and that I want to do. I feel the same way about this career that I feel about love in general - that it’s a choice. You can fall into a good situation whether personal or professional, but staying in that situation is a choice you make every single day and you’re there BECAUSE of your choices. 

I also have an incredible group of friends who’ve been like family to me and we go and do things that spark joy - museums, design shows, film, theater, nature, dancing.. There’s an amazing world out there.

mary irwin makeup girlcrush
mary irwin makeup girlcrush

Katheryn Winnick for Real Style - Makeup by Mary Irwin

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

This will sound a bit egotistical, but I don’t really feel that I have competitors. Most of my friends are also makeup artists or creatives - and for me at least, I find great joy in helping them. There’s a million makeup artists out there, and I want to know that if I’m not available, I have a trusted group of artists I can refer to them and know that we have each others backs. I also never, EVER feel that anyone owns a client. That’s a dangerous thought process. If you think you can’t be replaced in a second you’re wrong.

What is the best advice you have received recently?

As an artist, you need your home to be your sanctuary. When you come back at the end of a long day on set, you need to walk in your front door and feel like you have a safe place to breathe, to create, to be inspired and to recharge. Artists have and create vision, and we need to be surrounded by inspirational things to bring that vision to life. 

Let me tell you, no one was more surprised than me to find that a new home environment was what I needed to help improve my career!

What do you wish you had known when you started your business?

That you’re going to work harder than you ever thought possible, end up in situations you didn’t know existed, feel betrayed by people you trusted, have people you barely know help you through doors you never thought you could open - but the most important thing is that if you feel like you know everything, you should leave. The journey is really the point.

Three products I love:

Viseart Eye shadows -buttery, pigmented gorgeousness. I know that no matter what situation I’m in, from crazy lighting to bad weather, these hand pressed pigments are going to last forever, show up just the way I want them to, and always have my back. 

Golden Door Golden Face Oil - This paragon and sulfate free blend of 19 different oils includes Sea Buckthorn, Rosehip, Squalene and Lavender and absorbs almost instantly on the skin. I love to blend it into a cream foundation to make the skin look like it’s glowing from within. 

Surratt Concealer - these little palettes pack a big punch. with a color corrector, concealer and a powder all in one compact, you can do an entire complexion with one. Also, the coverage is adjustable from sheer to full coverage, and the colors are artist developed and you have a kit necessity.

Where else can we find you?

Website

Instagram

Facebook

#Girlcrush - Ivy Lauren

ivy avenue

Tell us about yourself and your business!

Hi! My name is Ivy and I am a wife, a mother and I also own a little business called Ivy Avenue! It is an online boutique with comfortable, affordable clothing along with some handmade jewelry that I make at home. I started it in 2017 and I have had so much fun doing it! It is a LOT of hard work figuring it out and trying to be successful but it has been an amazing experience!

We are currently living in Salt Lake City, Utah while my husband is in school. Along with working on my business some of my hobbies include homemaking, cooking, working out, being outside and hanging out with my husband and baby boy!

ivy lauren

What inspired you to start your own business?

In April 2017 I was 7 months pregnant with my first baby and I was about to graduate with my Bachelor’s degree. I was working unbelievably hard in school and I was working so things were pretty crazy! I really, really wanted to be able to spend time with my baby at home once he was born but I knew that with my husband also being in school full-time, we needed to find a way to make ends meet.

I also have always been super interested in having my own business. As a little girl I spent tons of time setting up lemonade stands and employing my little brothers in it with me. When I got older I started a little program at my house where parents could drop off their kids for a few hours and we did crafts and fun little art projects. In high school I started doing wedding photography and loved it. I have always just had a hunger for creating something new that was mine and that I could watch grow. I have always felt such an urge to own a business- especially one that was based around cute clothing!

So, after talking with my husband and doing a lot of research, I decided it was now or never, and I just went for it!

Is this your full time job?

Yes, along with working a little bit as a social media influencer and being a mom (of course) 🙂

How do you structure your days?

I am big into keeping a planner and writing everything down. Usually the night before I will go over everything I have to do the next day chronologically. I like to wake up and try to get things done before my son wakes up. Then I spend time with him making breakfast, playing, running errands, etc. During his nap I work again and then at night when my husband comes home we all spend time together and I am back at it at night after our son falls asleep!

ivy lauren

Where and how do you work best?

I work my best in my little office, with the door shut and with music going. I definitely am more efficient when I know that my first priority (my son) is taken care of. If I know he is, I feel like I can do anything! A big diet Dr. Pepper doesn’t hurt either ;)

Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?

Right now you can use code ‘SPRING2019’ and get 20% off anything from our site.

Where is your business based?

Salt Lake City, UT

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

ivy lauren

I took an entrepreneurship class during the last semester of college and that education really helped me know where to begin! I first had to think of the idea (obviously), the type of business I wanted (I decided on an LLC), my target demographic along with doing some market research and coming up with a name. I started by registering my business with the state of Utah and then with the federal government. I was young and honestly didn’t know much about business then so I was honestly just learning as I went!

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and attracting new customers?

Social media- definitely. Especially Instagram.

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

Finding new customers and building a following.

ivy lauren

How did you overcome these challenges?

Still trying to figure it out!! Trying to stay on top of social media/online advertising trends is important for an online business.

How do you keep motivated through tough times?

I find support from those around me. My husband, my dad, my mom and my close friends are always so good at helping me to stay motivated and feel empowered.

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

Because my business is still fairly small, I like to be the one to deal with any customer service e-mails. Instead of getting cliché responses from outsourced employees, I make sure that I am the one to communicate with customers. It can be difficult to keep up at times but I feel that intimacy is so important in a world where everything is automated. I want to personally make sure that every customer is satisfied whether that means talking on the phone about something, processing returns, or helping someone find the right fit.

What is the best advice you have received recently?

“Celebrate the success of others. High tide floats all ships.”

In the business-world, everything is extremely competitive. I have always been a proponent of capitalistic ideals and know that in order to have a successful business, you need to work hard and be competitive. However, I have learned that it can be very beneficial to cheer on and work with people who have the same goals as you. I have learned so many things from my fellow boutique-owning-girls and know that it is so important to stick together!

ivy lauren
ivy lauren

What do you wish you had known when you started your business?

Oh man, so many things! I could write a novel! The biggest thing would be to have been more confident in myself. Stop questioning everything. Stop comparing. Stop worrying. Just go for it!

Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire most? Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?

One of my biggest influences in my life has been my dad. I know he isn’t technically a “girl boss” 😉 but growing up I watched as he worked so hard to build a business out of practically nothing. When I was little he was in an accident that left him with a badly broken back. I watched as he and my mother struggled over years to get finances together and to create the life they wanted. My dad started all kinds of small businesses and worked endlessly to get them up off the ground. He has taught me so much about business and enduring when things get rough (as they always do).

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Starting and running a successful business takes someone with the confidence to not care what naysayers think. Odds are you will have at least a few people who will think you’re crazy and try to bring you down. You don’t have enough time to deal with that if you’re going to be successful! :)

What business tools/resources could you not work without?

Since my business is done mainly online, a lot of my favorite resources have to do with technology. I LOVED using WordPress to create and design my webiste. I do

a lot of social media and I love using Canva and Adobe Spark to create beautfiul, eye-catching posts. Id recommend those apps to anyone!

What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?

Wow, so many! I feel like when starting a business (or doing anything 'big’ in life) you really learn who your friends are. Like I said above, there WILL be people who think you're crazy/not qualified enough to run a business and that was kind of a disappointing lesson for me to learn, but an important one. I was able to see how many of my friends and family members truly supported me (not just through purchasing anything, but just by being a positive influence in my life) and I am so grateful for them! I learned that I ALWAYS want to be the type of girl that will support my friends and family in their endeavors and always have their backs.

Where would you like your business to be 5 years from now?

I would love to really focus more on jewelry and be able to produce and create unique, beautiful designs! I'd love for my audience and customers to grow and eventually I'd love to hire more people to help grow the brand.

Where can we find you?

Instagram: @ivy.avenue

Facebook: @ivyavenueboutique

www.shopivyavenue.com

shopivyavenue@gmail.com

#Girlcrush - Laura Prado

The Weekend Gypsy Logo

Tell us about yourself and your business!

My name is Laura and I’m happiest when I’m designing, crafting, playing dress up, or doing something creative! I have a BFA in fashion design, and started my business way back in 2014 (originally a jewelry line). My entrepreneurial journey was paused for several years while I worked as a design assistant for a menswear fashion brand. It didn’t take me long to realize the 9-5 desk job was simply NOT for me. I took the plunge, resigned, and really began to focus on my own dream business in 2015. After freelancing and dabbling in a few projects here and there, I ultimately used my background in fashion illustration and visual art to launch and develop my brand: TWG Designs - a place for digital scrapbook papers, hand drawn clip art, planner printables, invitations, logos, art prints, stationery, & more! (www.twgdesigns.etsy.com)

TWG Designs

What inspired you to start your own business?

From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be my own boss. I’m an only child, and slightly introverted, so I feel most productive when I set my own goals, schedule, and work solo. Also, the sheer fear of working to make someone else’s dream come true while setting mine on the back burner was enough of a motivating factor to start my own business. 

Is this your full time job?

I am beyond grateful to say yes, it is!

You also have an amazing blog, what inspired you to start blogging?

Laura Prado The Weekend Gypsy

While I was (miserably) working my 9-5 desk job, I found myself constantly inspired by, and finding a community through, other people’s blogs. I loved reading about their experiences, advice, and creativity. Before I resigned from my 9-5 job, I looked forward to the WEEKENDS (hence my blog’s name) so that I could dive into my creative passions and document them on my own blog for others to be inspired as well. I quickly launched my blog, The Weekend Gypsy, (www.weekend-gypsy.com) as the main hub and umbrella under which all of my creative weekend projects and soon-to-be business(es) would live.

How would you describe your blogging style?

I like to say my blog is like the Chinese fried rice of blogs. It’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that. But hopefully, it all comes together in the end to create a cohesive dish full of complimentary flavors! I like to think that I’m not TOO serious about blogging, and write as if I’m just talking to a friend. 

Is blogging your profession or hobby?

Although I don’t make a full-time income solely from my blog, I still consider it part of my profession. This day and age, if you have a brand or business, you simply MUST have a blog to go alongside it. I see my blog as a complimentary addition to my brand, with fun content that my current and potential clients can enjoy and take some value out of. It’s also a creative outlet for me to share other passions aside from just my digital artwork for TWG Designs (www.twgdesigns.etsy.com) . I get to play with fashion and styling, special effects makeup during halloween, and even sprinkle in a few DIY craft projects when inspiration hits! 

What has been your most successful blog post?

My most successful post was my Euro Trip Travel Diary. In this post, I talk all about a 16 day itinerary to Greece, and Italy. It’s an in depth post with tons of details about where we stayed, how we got around, where we ate, and I even shared some tips on packing everything in just a carry-on.

TWG Designs

Where and how do you work best?

I have 2 work modes:

  1. Solo, in my home office, on a sunny day, with some good background music, and a hot cup of coffee at arms reach

  2. Solo, in my home office, at 3am, in complete and utter silence, and a chocolate cookie at arms reach

Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?

Not at this time, but I do have a monthly “best seller sale” where one of my most popular artwork collections is 25% off during the last few days of the month. I also have a VIP club where you receive a coupon code upon sign up that you can use unlimited times in the shop! 

Where is your business based?

My business is based in sunny Miami, FL

Laura Prado
Laura Prado

What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?

Because my parents are also entrepreneurs, they advised me to lay the groundwork and and start by taking care of all the official business-y things first: incorporate with the state, set up a small biz bank account, purchase domains, etc. From there, I developed my branding, and then, I got to work on designing and creating content. 

What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and attracting new customers?

Instagram has been a great platform for me to grow my business. Because it’s so visual in nature, it goes hand in hand with the products I create! I post consistently and vary my content between products and inspiration. I also make sure to reply to everyone as best as I possibly can, and have created lasting friendships over time within my instagram community. Daily Pinterest activity (another highly visual platform) has also helped me grow a following by linking back to many of my blog posts, product pages, and websites - a great way to increase traffic and get your brand noticed.

TWG Designs
TWG Designs

What have been your biggest challenges so far?

For a while, I was creating content, designing products and artwork for my business, while also taking on small freelance gigs, AND designing custom commissioned artwork for other small businesses. Not to mention wearing all of the other hats a solopreneur wears on a daily basis. It became a challenge when I realized I was completely burnt out, and spread way too thin - leaving myself with a lack of new creative ideas and inspiration. My work/life balance was completely off and I began to loose my joy for design.

How did you overcome these challenges?

I had to be brutally honest with myself, and determine that my sanity was more important than taking on all the jobs or opportunities that presented themselves to me. I gave myself a max limit of projects per month, and established strict boundaries between work and play. This not only helped me feel excited about design again, but it helped me level up the quality of my work as I was able to dedicate more time and headspace to each project and collection. I will continue to follow this workflow until I am ready and able to hire on some help and expand my business into a team! :) 

Laura Prado

How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?

Apart from developing and embracing my own personal design aesthetic (as most creatives do!), I try to constantly evolve my brand by developing a new product category, service, or membership club. I also think my blog helps to distinguish myself, because it allows me to connect with my clients on a more personal level. I aim to be relatable, approachable, and easy-going with everything that I post, create, or sell. 

What is the best advice you have received recently?

This advice comes from my husband: It’s OK to say NO. As a chronic people-pleaser, I literally dread ever having to say no to someones request, proposal, or favor. Over time, I have realized that doing TOO much is worse than not doing anything at all, because nothing get’s done to its full potential, and you risk that dreaded burnout. 

What do you wish you had known when you started your business?

When I started my business and really dove head first into full-time solopreneurship, I had this little grey cloud of doubt and fear constantly lingering over my head. I wish I had known that my motivation and drive would be the perfect propellors to get my business’ momentum going, and that as long as I was following my true passion and enjoying myself along the way, there was nothing to fear and things would fall into place when the timing was right.  

What do you wish you had known when you started your blog?

I wish I had taken a bit more time to learn about SEO, coding, and the backend part of blogging. I’m still learning about all of that now, but I’ve had to backtrack and do a lot of admin work on older posts to get them up to speed. But, at the same time, I don’t regret starting before being 100% “ready” because I’m a true believer that done is better than perfect… and there will never be an ideal moment to take the plunge and start something that excites/scares you. You just have to go for it, and figure it out along the way. 

Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire most? Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?

My biggest influences always circle back to fashion. From the OG magazines (Vogue, WWD, etc.) to the newer fashion + lifestyle brands with amazing aesthetics that are killing it (both on the ‘gram AND in their industry). But, overall, I am mostly inspired by the way a brand makes me FEEL through their marketing and visuals - ie. Rifle Paper Co., Harlow & Grey, and Anthropologie, to name a few. 

What advice would you give to other bloggers and entrepreneurs?

Stay true to your passion, be consistent, and have an organized (but flexible) plan of action. 

TWG Designs

What blogging and business tools/resources could you not work without?

I love my iPad and apple pencil, all Adobe Creative Cloud programs, and Squarespace. Oh, and Instagram! Duh!

What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?

I’ve learned that the best work happens when you are happy and well taken care of (self-love is a real thing we all need to prioritize). I’ve learned that sometimes planning an intentional day “off” to do something completely out of your routine sparks inspiration, which in turn leads to new opportunities for growth. I’ve learned that there is no perfect path to reach your goal, and it’s ok to go with the flow when things take an unexpected turn. Trust your intuition and follow your bliss. 

Where would you like your business to be 5 years from now?

I would like to evolve and grow into a lifestyle brand and creative community. I’d love to be able to give back to those who might need a bit of a push or motivation to start living and creating their own dream life through resources, classes, and an online networking platform for introverted creatives to work together in a supportive, inspiring, and positive space!  

Where can we find you?

Instagram: @theweekendgypsy & @twgdesigns

Facebook: www.facebook.com/twgdesignspage 

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/weekendpins 

Website: www.weekend-gypsy.com

Email: hello@weekend-gypsy.com